Day 78: Petaluma, CA to San Fransisco, CA

Our last ride of the summer was dedicated to Zane’s dad, Scott. Scott passed away after a battle with cancer a few years ago. Zane wanted to dedicate the last day to his dad so that he could do his very best and get as many miles as possible in, just like his dad always did for him. I know that Scott would be so proud of Zane and all that he has accomplished throughout this ride.

Today’s ride was 40-ish miles into San Francisco. We got to all hang out, take pictures, and take in our accomplishment together on the north side of the bridge before biking across and meeting our family on the south side. It was an unforgettable feeling as the summer culminated into one moment where all 17 of us could be together one last time.

I have really enjoyed writing about this summer and sharing our adventures! I must admit, there were days that were much less fun than I tried to make them out to be. There were days when we were all so tired and sweaty and homesick and hungry that waking up tomorrow and doing it all again felt impossible. However, what we did this summer was not impossible. It wasn’t even hard. In fact, it was easy. Each morning we dedicated our ride to someone who was doing or had done something hard. Battling cancer is hard. Losing a loved one is hard. Supporting a friend or family through a diagnosis is hard. What we did was easy, and we were honored to do it for those who are out there fighting a hard fight each and every day. I’m thankful for the stories I heard and the impact they have had on my life. This has been a humbling summer and I will cherish these memories forever.

Thanks to those who followed along with us every day – especially parents, grandparents, friends, family members, and those we had the honor of meeting throughout this summer. If you have an I4Ker coming back home to you in a couple of days, I encourage you to hug them extra tight if you are into that sort of thing. This is a special group of people who are going to change this world! I also encourage you to not prepare them any oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or spaghetti for their meals (we are a little bit tired of these particular menu items).

Oh yeah and tell anyone and everyone to apply for the 2020 team :) anyone can, no matter how old you are or where you live or if you like creamy peanut butter more than crunchy peanut butter (even though your opinion on that matter is wrong). The link is on our homepage!

peace & blessings
-Kaitlin

P.S. my very kind team wanted to give me a shout-out, so here are their words! :)

Marie:
Kaitlin is by far the most positive person on the team. Even with 20 mph headwinds and 6000 feet of climbing she still keeps us in good spirits. She’s always there for us when we need a boost and there’s no way we could have made it across the country without her :)

Sisi:
Kaitlin is always super positive and supportive. We’re always excited to see her at the rest stops, and she helps us through the hard days. Coach K is awesome!

Brad:
Coach K is the best! She is one of the most positive, supportive, and genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. She does so much for the team and we wouldn’t be where we are without her! I’m definitely gonna miss her a lot when the ride is over!

Marc:
BIG shoutout to Kaitlin Block, our amazing teammate. She is always eager to help wherever she can, and she holds herself and her teammates to a high standard, going the extra mile to make sure each day goes as smoothly as possible. She is a huge asset to the asset to the team and this ride would have been much more difficult without her.

Mike:
Big shoutout to Kaitlin! She’s an incredibly kindhearted person that I look forward to seeing everyday at rest stops and either sharing my joy with her when I’m having a good day or letting her share some of her joy with me when I’m having a rough day. She is the friend that everybody needs and the glue that holds this team together. I don’t know where this team would be without her. Easily one of the greatest i4kers this organization has ever seen. Thank you for everything Kaitlin.

Zane:
Coach K! Coach Kaitlin! Coach Greatlin!
There’s no one on this team I’d rather be holed up with in the van for more than a month. I could only hope that Kaitlin would say the same for me. In all seriousness, getting to know Kaitlin one on one for so long has bettered me in more ways than just her friendship. It’s been a tough journey for me in some parts of this trip, and without having Kaitlin there I’m not quite sure what I would have done; I think everyone here could have said the same at one point in time. I don’t think we would have made it here without her. Also, the washer fluid is low.

Nathan:
Kaitlin has easily put in more miles on the road than any other member of the team. Driving everyday across the country is no easy task (especially the roads we go on). Additionally, she selflessly works to ensure that everyone is well nourished and in a good mood at rest stops. During hard days, she keeps everyone on task and her positivity helps keep morale high. When the riding gets tough, seeing her and the van is like finding an oasis in a desert. Kaitlin has a unique ability to make a normally bleak situation seem like a lively party. Kaitlin skillfully writes the rider blog behind the scenes, helping keep our friends and family in touch. The amount of work Kaitlin puts into the team is much greater than she gets back. She does SO MUCH for the team. Everything from shopping, sending postcards, driving us everywhere, writing the blog, and the exhausting task of keeping our spirits up. She even wrote everyone positive personal notes with candy for when we needed a boost. Kaitlin is a superhero to me. I’m glad to be on her team, and am so lucky to call her Coach K.

Howe:
Coach K is our best rider. She is always so positive. Every rest stop she prepares everything for us as well as a warm hug. Through the summer we get the best support from her no matter when we are biking or resting. She is the true MVP.

Ernie:
Kaitlin’s love for the state of Ohio, though misguided, demonstrates just how positive and compassionate she is no matter the circumstances. Her wisdom and levelheadedness made every curveball the ride threw our way much easier to overcome. We were incredibly lucky to have coach K rooting us on every mile of the way!!

Jon:
Words cannot begin to properly describe a person as wonderful as Kaitlin.
Her personality reminds me of the sun. Coach K, is simultaneously warm and comforting yet powerful enough to burn the atmosphere. Coach K tends to smile from her eyes and when you make eye contact with her it’s like staring into the grand prismatic. You can’t help but smile back. This ride has been amazing. We saw the giants of the redwoods, geysers of Yellowstone, endless starry nights and lakes hidden within mountains. Yet none of it is as amazing as Kaitlin!

Anisha:
Kaitlin, or Coach K as we love to call her, is truly the most genuine and warmhearted soul that I know. She boosts the team spirits up immensely every day and every single rest stop. I can not even put into words how much more difficult this journey would have been without her tremendous support along the way.

Cari:
A big shoutout to one Kaitlin Block, the heart and soul of our team! Kaitlin is a constant source of support and encouragement, making long days feel shorter and difficult roads feel achievable! Her encouragement, levelheadedness and tenacity help keep this team together, and I honestly don’t know if we’d have made it this far without her. Kaitlin always makes me feel better about myself and what we can all achieve, and I’m lucky to know her :)

Kirby:
Kaitlin Block is such a quality human that I’ve been to blessed to call one of my best friends in my time at Illinois. She’s the most positive, uplifting, and thoughtful person whose impact to the team is well beyond measure. Her support for each and every one of us has not wavered in the past 78 days. Truly the best.

Maria:
I want to give the biggest shoutout in the whole wide world to Kaitlin. For the past 4 years, Kaitlin has been the truest, kindest friend, supporter, and roommate I could have ever asked for. She is the most resilient person I know and she can make any situation fun and exciting! I admire Kaitlin so much and I cannot imagine my college experience or I4k without her. She makes every moment an adventure and makes every day brighter. The world needs more people like Kblock and I’m truly grateful to call her my friend and my teammate.

Day 77: Healdsburg, CA to Petaluma, CA

Today’s ride was dedicated to my Uncle Eddie (Pug) Michener. Uncle Eddie had been battling multiple myeloma for about 6 years, and passed away on Wednesday morning. He had gotten to see his grandson every week and was very loved by many, including me, my mother, and my grandma Gin Gin.

We had a super short ride today, only 34 miles into Petaluma, our last stayover of the summer. We are staying at the United Church or Christ and have been hanging out here since lunch time washing our bikes, signing each other’s jerseys, and enjoying this last night together. For dinner we had delicious pasta and lentils AND buttered chicken made by Viraat. It was absolutely amazing!

Well, this is a sad one to write, but I’ve got to write my last rider blurb about my best friend Maria. Maria and I have been roommates for three years straight now, including the summertimes. We applied to this trip together and it has been so incredible to get to live this adventure every day with someone so awesome and supportive. No matter what kind of day it has been, I can always count on Maria saving me a place at the stayover in the coldest room in the building and right next to a power outlet. That might seem like a small thing, but it is the biggest thing in the world after a day on the road. It is historically difficult for me to do a trip like this: we are running on very little sleep, waking up early, eating unfamiliar food with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place each night. Having not only a familiar face, but one of my favorite people on earth to get to do this trip with has been so awesome and has allowed me to step even further outside of my comfort zone and truly embrace the spirit of this trip. Maria is the best listener you will ever meet, no matter how mundane your story is. She is thoughtful and kind and makes every day memorable. I’m not quite sure what I am going to do in a few days when I can’t come back home (or to a random church in a random city) to chat with Maria about anything and everything.

Tomorrow we cross the bridge and end what was the longest ride in Illini 4000 history. It’s hard to be with a group of people for so many days straight without any breaks. But it was pretty easy with this group. I’m lucky to have gotten to know everybody and to have been a part of this family. Tomorrow will be my last post/summary of this trip! I am both excited and sad about that!

Day 76: Willits, CA to Healdsburg, CA

Today’s ride was dedicated to Ilse, Cari’s godmother from Germany. Ilse passed away from an undiagnosed cancer several years ago.We were honored to get to dedicate our ride today in remembrance of her.

Today’s ride was 67 miles (thanks to Nathan who shortened the route yet again!) in some pretty brutal heat down California Highway 101. We had several more flat tires, drank a ton of ice water, and showed down on a bunch of snacks. Because we only have a couple of days left, we are trying to clear out our food inventory (and apparently also our tire tube inventory).

Tonight we are staying at the Healdsburg Community Church, where we have showers and an awesome kitchen to cook s’mores in tonight :) dinner was provided to us by Marc’s parents – so HUGE thank you to them! We all went out to a Mexican restaurant and ate chips and salsa to our heart’s content. I’m thankful for this time with my team during these last couple of days.

I was thankful to get to hang out with Brad extra today as well! Brad is such an awesome person that I’m glad I have gotten to know throughout the summer. He is a graduated senior just like I am and is about to move to Indianapolis to start working at Rolls-Royce as an aerospace engineer (I know he has a fancy title but I don’t know enough about engineering to pass it along here). He is also extremely humble and I think downplays how awesome it is to have such an awesome job lined up right out of college. Throughout college he was a Resident Advisor and, while I did not live in his resident hall, I know he was a fantastic one. Brad is an excellent listener and has the best conversations due to his curiosity and the questions he asks simply in the spirit of wanting to learn and know more. I’m going to miss his fist bumps that he gives for support every day, and his positive outlook on life.

Day 75: Redwoods National Park, CA to Willits, CA

Today’s ride was dedicated to Brad’s grandmother, Alice. Alice passed away from ovarian cancer when Brad was very young, and he did not really have a chance to meet her. We proudly biked for Alice and for Brad, who is celebrating his birthday today.

Today was the last remaining long ride of the whole trip, clocking in at 91 miles. And it was a LONG day, we got into our stayover at Willits High School at 8pm. Thankfully, Steven’s parents offered to get the team dinner and we all got to eat Chinese food together at a team! We were so thankful especially after such a long day. The team had over 10 flats and ride in some pretty intense heat, and we did it with our morale still high :)

Nathan is such a one-of-a-kind person that we are BEYOND lucky to have on this ride. He does so much for the team that he should not and does not have to do, but he gladly does it to ensure that we all can have a safe and enjoyable ride each and every day. What he does is look at our route, go through literally every mile on Google Street view to check for gravel, construction, etc., and then will change our route to avoid such hazards. Sometimes, he cuts our routes down by MILES and/or cuts our climbing down by a significant amount. It is a huge deal and we all appreciate it beyond words. Nathan is also a huge adventurer and will always find something to climb, some road to bike down, or a sunrise to photograph. I’m especially thankful for the day we spend surfing in the Pacific Ocean! I think that will be one of the things I remember most about this whole entire trip.

Day 74: Eureka, CA to Redwoods National Park, CA

Today’s ride was dedicated to Thomas Henebery. During the ride into crater lake, a group of us ran into a super nice couple who had stopped to cheer us on and ask about our mission. Thomas was the father of one of the individuals, and had passed away from a brain tumor quite some time ago when treatment for cancer was not as advanced as it is now. We are honored to get to ride for Thomas and feel even more empowered to keep fundraising and keep giving those funds to further medical advancements.

Today was an absolutely beautiful ride into the Redwoods campground! It was only a 47 mile day and we were not able to check in to our campsite until 2pm. This meant that we were able to wake up and leave later, as well as stop at a diner for a whole team brunch. It was delicious and a fun time to get to take a break mid ride and hang out together. We also made a bunch of stops along the route at gift shops and to take in the amazing beauty of the Redwoods. I personally never look up photos of our destinations because I like to be surprised. The Redwoods blew me away – I did not know that they are the tallest trees in the whole world. I think that’s pretty cool! Our campsite was really nice and full of other families enjoying vacations in California. We got to eat together and take a hike down to the river. We also tried to climb some of the trees, and were somewhat successful.

Erin is an absolute superstar on this team. First of all, she is about to go to MIT in the fall to earn her PhD. No big deal (just kidding that’s a HUGE deal and she is extremely humble and rarely talks about it but I want you all to know)! Second of all, Erin would be a first round draft pick to any team in any situation. She is reliable, rational, consistent, and extremely safe. She is also super funny and has the best little witty jokes. She crushes it on the bike every day and is always a great person to be around. I’m going to miss her “welcome to breakfast” every morning in a couple of days when the trip wraps up!

Day 71, 72 & 73: Crescent City, CA to Eureka, CA

On Saturday, we shuttled straight to Crescent City, CA from Grants Pass, OR due to smoke coming from wildfires. We made it to our stayover in the early afternoon and had the evening to explore the town’s farmer’s market, cheese factory, thrift shops, and the beach! We finally reached the pacific ocean and got to see the sunset over it, which was absolutely unreal.

The next day was our scheduled Crescent City rest day where we went to breakfast, the beach, coffee shops, or just stayed inside and slept. I had a great time trying out surfing/boogie boarding with Nathan! I also got to try some freshly caught seafood. Being on the coast is still unreal and so beautiful! Huge thanks to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for letting us stay for two nights and for providing us with warm showers.

It seems like we are (hopefully) in the clear from forest fires for the rest of the ride. We have been very cautious and are monitoring the air quality throughout the day. Biking is important, but our long-term health and returning safely to our friends and family is even more important.

This morning we dedicated our ride to Diane Godek. Diane is Nathan’s neighbor and is like a second mother to him. She is currently battling stage 3 cancer and is experiencing some complications. He has always been thankful for her kindness and positivity throughout her life, and still is thankful for it today. We were thinking about her and Nathan as we biked today. We were thinking of Nathan extra today as his grandfather passed away over the weekend. It is hard to be away from home during a time like this and we are thankful to have Nathan around for this last leg of the ride.

We were excited to get back on the bikes today after a few days off! It was no easy day, 85 miles and quite a bit of climbing. However, the ride along the coast and through the Redwoods made the time pass so quickly. We are in Eureka tonight where we are staying at the First United Methodist Church. We also got to shower at Planet Fitness (which has REALLY nice showers that we are SO thankful for)!

I once again have two amazing riders to shout-out in this post! I want to tell you all about two of my very good friends, Kirby and Anisha.

Kirby has been my friend for several years now and we both encouraged each other to apply for this experience. He has some biking experience under his belt and truly enjoys being on the bike each day! He is very speedy and efficient and could probably ride for 100+ miles every day. Kirby does a wonderful job with all of the social media accounts that hopefully you all have seen :) he gives the best ever hugs and is always there to listen to you on the good and bad days. I’m thankful to have done this trip with such a wonderful friend!

I did not know Anisha until we began training together this past spring, but I feel like she is a friend I have had for a long time. My favorite training memory (one of my top memories from this whole experience really) was with Anisha as we learned how to climb the huge hills of Illinois. I still laugh about that day and will always remember it. I remember talking about how each day is not a race, and how we wanted to take in every moment we could on the trip without rushing. I still enjoy that attitude about her so much. We all have hard days, and she does too, but she still talks about them with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. I know that if I needed anything at all. Anisha would help me out in a second no matter what. She will be applying to medical school soon and will make an excellent doctor one day, that is for sure.